A Sire’s Sound Shadow

Identify the Artist 760.Regan Vercruysse flickr

Photo credit: Regan Vercruysse via Flickr

With your magic lute, you enchanted us all. At first note, the hall hushed. Clanking cups, rattling dice, raucous laughs—all silenced in awe.  Even the dogs and the drunks ceased barking to listen.  We swayed to your rhythms, our hearts rising and crashing with your words.

You wanted to teach me, pass it down.  But how could I plunk my pitiful ditties in the same room as you? In the same world?

Since you died, I cannot even tune it.  The strings ring sour, accusatory.

It lays mute.  For the stronger charm was never within it, but within you.

Word count: 100.  Written for this week’s Friday Fictioneers challenge.  Big thanks as always to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting, and for providing this week’s photo prompt (see below).  Click on the link to read the other 100-word stories and poems, or to submit your own!

The title is a play on “rain shadow,” which is when a mountain range is so tall that it blocks the clouds coming from one direction.  The mountain benefits from extra rainfall, and is lush and verdant, but the land beyond—in its shadow—is left a desert. It occurred to me that some fathers are like that mountain, whether they realize it or not.


Photo © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

58 thoughts on “A Sire’s Sound Shadow

    • Thank you for the kind comment, Lynn! Yes, that’s exactly it – the father who casts the long shadow, muting the child in the process. As I said to Neil, I’ve been in a poetic mood lately, partly because I’m reading Ulysses, and the only parts I understand are the poetic parts (and the references to Shakespeare and Greek myths).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow! Well done for attempting Ulysses – I’ve never been brave enough to try James Joyce and probably never will either. I have a feeling it will make me feel stupid and I’ve had enough of that in my life! And those dad’s … the longest of shadows, eh?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ulysses is a weird duck, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t recommend it. I don’t understand large chunks of it, but it never occurred to me to think that made me stupid. Parts I don’t understand because he keeps throwing in phrases from other languages, and not just the French that I can mostly get, and I got too lazy to look them all up. Parts are because he makes tons of references to Irish culture and Irish politics and makes absolutely zero attempt to explain them to the reader. Parts are because he makes a ton of broader cultural references (Shakespeare, Homer) and at least I’m getting most of those. But mostly when I don’t understand what’s happening, I attribute it to his bad writing. Yes, I said it: the emperor has no clothes. He’s throwing meaningless crap on the page and daring the reader to question his experimental literary genius. Yes, there are some brilliant lines. But mostly it’s a long, incoherent slog where people are talking and thinking about everything unrelated under the sun, which I would call an exposition dump if only he were explaining anything. He just breaks every “rule” of good writing and you know what, there are reasons for those rules! He’s deliberately being vague and making the weakest references you can imagine — like, the character ruminates on a hundred different things, and then out of nowhere he’ll say something about “her” or “him” with zero clue which person he means. It’s infuriating, and Joyce did it on purpose, to mess with the reader. That’s on him. I’ve been reading the Spark Notes summary before I read each chapter, and many times, I’ll get to the part where the Spark Notes summary says something happened, and I’m looking right at the only sentence they could possibly mean, buried in three pages worth of sentences they didn’t mention, and I’m still baffled about how exactly they decided that it meant what they said it did. Clearly *not* only due to the context of the book itself. For instance, there’s one section where the men in the bar are singing an Irish song, but they don’t clearly name the song, or say what it’s about, and several pages later, the main character ruminates about why the character in the song was fooled by the cop, only he doesn’t say who he means, and he doesn’t use the word cop. Ooh, isn’t Joyce ever, ever, ever so clever, fooling us like that? No, that’s deliberately obfuscatory writing, and since the whole point of writing is communication, that means it’s crap.

        Anyway, point being, he’s clearly just daring the reader to pretend to understand so that he can call them a poser, or spend years studying it, as he apparently “joked” would be necessary, or to admit that they can’t cut it, all of which validates his brilliance a priori. But that crap won’t work on me, buddy. You have some good lines, but overall, this experiment gives experimental writing a bad name. I’m convinced everyone who thinks this is brilliant is a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. Ha!


    • Well said, Eric! A true artist can make magical music even from a mediocre instrument. I was imagining that the daughter (or it could be a son, I left it open) was hoping that since the lute was magically enchanted, she would be able to simply pick it up later and it would (literally) magically work for her. But since she was too scared to learn from her father when she had the chance, she lost that chance. Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly — well said, Alicia! I tried to get in a line about how the daughter’s voice was muted by the father’s sound, but it looks like I got that across without it. Thanks for the great comment!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hmm, that’s a good question. I’m not an expert, but my understanding is that shorter mountains may block some of the lower rain clouds but the higher ones would still pass over to the lands beyond. Which works for the analogy with parents and role models, too.


  1. Powerful little piece. Interesting to note that the the talent of the narrators father was not something can be passed down. That his amazing and ‘charming’ playing could stop a room, but that that talent (his level of ability) was uniquely his.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, glad you liked it! I was imagining that the daughter could have learned at least something from her father, if she’d been brave enough to try, but that she was too awed by him to risk failing in front of him.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You never really know if you can develop the skill until you try — and try hard, over and over again. It’s daunting to almost anyone, much less if your father is famous for it.


  2. It’s true that the player, not the instrument, possesses the spirit but we each have our own path to achieving a melody, however simple, and that is a journey well worth taking. Play first to please yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

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